REVIEW: Fear comes knockin’ with ‘Knock at the Cabin’

“Knock at the Cabin” is a new end-of-the-world thriller directed by M. Night Shyamalan and based on the novel "The Cabin at the End of the World.” The movie is playing at Cozy Theatre in Wadena.

"Knock at the Cabin" movie poster
"Knock at the Cabin" is a new movie by M. Night Shyamalan playing at the Cozy Theatre in downtown Wadena.
Frank Lee / Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA — “Knock, knock. … Who’s there?”

“Knock, knock” jokes have been around for as long as there have been doors, I suppose, but a new release playing at the Cozy Theatre in downtown Wadena seems as good as any time to introduce myself to subscribers who appreciate not only the Pioneer Journal but movies, too.

I am a features writer at heart and was editor of the weekly arts and entertainment section at the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper, where I worked before joining the staff at the Wadena Pioneer Journal. (Both publications are owned by Forum Communications Co.)

Watching and discussing movies are among my outside interests. At the Dispatch, I enjoyed writing a popular weekly movie column and plan to continue doing so here with the Pioneer Journal.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“The Sixth Sense” remains one of my all-time favorite movies, for example, and “Knock at the Cabin” is a new movie by the same director playing at the Cozy Theatre, which is located at the corner of Jefferson Street South and Colfax Avenue Southwest.


The stranger at the door — it’s almost a primal fear that anyone can relate to, and it’s partly what makes “Knock at the Cabin” a scarily effective thriller. Having death at your doorstep is a horrific idea but is at the core of director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest mystery.

“The Sixth Sense” director known (or derided) for his sometimes hard-to-fathom plot twists in his films surprisingly leaves out his trademark cinematic stunt in “Knock at the Cabin,” which is based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel "The Cabin at the End of the World.”

Cabin in a wooded area.
Contributed / Peter Thomas via

Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge play a couple in the movie who are vacationing with their 7-year-old adopted daughter played by newcomer Kristen Cui in her feature film debut. Cui as Wen is out and about near the cabin rental collecting grasshoppers for a school project.

The cute-as-a-button girl encounters, however, a heavily tattooed and physically imposing yet soft-spoken man in the middle of the remote forest played by David Bautista, who moviegoers may remember as Drax the Destroyer from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” film franchise.

Before you can say “stranger danger,” three others suddenly reveal themselves in the woods to join Bautista and together they march menacingly toward the cabin where the couple named Eric and Andrew remain oblivious of the approaching threat or the peril their daughter Wen is in.

That brings me to another arguably primal fear that any parent can relate to, and that is the existential threat everyday things and daily interactions with society can bring or pose to your child, who most parents love more than anything else in the world and would do anything for.

The R-rated movie that runs almost 90 minutes does not let up on the pressure in that regard. The four intruders that suddenly show up to interrupt the family’s idyllic vacation do not explicitly threaten Wen or physically harm the girl in the movie, but one cannot help but fear for her.

The feature film adaptation of Tremblay’s 2018 novel "The Cabin at the End of the World” remains relatively faithful to its literary source material except for the motion picture’s ending; the four strangers tell the family they must choose to kill one of their own or the world will end.


The reason for the apocalyptic prophecy that Bautista’s character Leonard — a bespeckled teacher who comes across at first glance like a bouncer at a seedy bar rather than the respected and caring educator he would like the parents to believe he is — is never explained.

Leonard tells the understandably doubtful parents that the family has to willingly select one of the three — either one of the adults or their child — to sacrifice for the greater good, which is the survival of the rest of humanity. If a choice isn’t made, the trio will be the only ones left to live.

Rupert Grint surprisingly makes an extended cameo in Shylaman’s new release as Redmond, one of the other possibly delusional and fanatic believers who, along with Leonard, have come upon the family to impress upon the three how important their role will be in all of this.

Grint is an English actor who is no stranger to the big screen and is a familiar sight to fans of the “Harry Potter” film franchise. The redhead plays a brief but pivotal role in “Knock at the Cabin.”

Having to make decisions with life-altering consequences and just trying to survive in a world that seemingly poses a threat at every turn is something most of us can relate to and maybe it’s the reason that critics have been generous in their qualified praise of the film.

“Knock at the Cabin” currently has a 68% approval rating among critics and a 65% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at "Although it's often less than scary and parts of the story don't bear scrutiny, ‘Knock at the Cabin’ is a thought-provoking chiller and upper-tier Shyamalan."

FRANK LEE is the movie columnist for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. He may be reached at 218-631-6470 or at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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